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My MCW Story: Joseph Byonanebye

“I want to promote health beyond borders”

Published: May, 2017

Joseph Byonanebye grew up in Kabale, Uganda, which is a short distance from Rwanda, a country that experienced genocide in 1994. His home town was close to where many international organizations such as UNICEF stationed themselves when coming to offer relief efforts, and they had a profound impact on his choice of public health career.

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“Seeing these people come from other parts of the world to help out my fellow East Africans made me realize my calling was to provide and improve health beyond where I lived or came from,” said Joseph, who recently completed his PhD in public and community health at MCW.

Joseph studied environmental health science at Makerere University School of Public Health in Uganda and received his MPH at St. Georges University in Grenada before returning to Uganda for four years. During his return, he served as a member of the National Diseases Outbreaks Task Force, where he helped address challenges like the Ebola and anthrax outbreaks, and got great experience advancing all aspects of community health. Then in August 2013, he started in MCW’s doctoral program in public and community health.

Joseph chose MCW because he was “impressed with the strength of the community engagement efforts.”

“It has been an amazing experience to work with community organizations in the Milwaukee area and show them how they can impact health,” Joseph said. “I consider the community organizations as equal partners in our research and our efforts to prolong and preserve life.”

Joseph, who graduates in May and has received a clinical assistant professor appointment at Marquette University, is thankful for the investment his mentors made in him.

“One thing that really stands out from my time at MCW is how Dr. Laura Cassidy, my advisor, worked with me from day one as an international student and continued advising and helping me all the way through my dissertation defense.”

Joseph’s dissertation is on the characteristics, regional trends and determinants of teenage pregnancy in Uganda, an idea he got from seeing how Milwaukee has worked to drop its teen pregnancy rate. It is this cross-continental, cross-cultural view he plans to take with him as he pursues future steps in his career.

“I want to be remembered for contributing to the health of societies regardless of where they are, or what their weaknesses may be,” Joseph said. “I want to promote health beyond borders.”

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